Take a walk on the South Side...

SOSNA: The South of South Neighborhood Association
1711 South Street, Philadelphia PA 19146 (215) 732-8446 phone (215) 732-2016 (fax)
sosna@southofsouth.org -- Serving Southwest Center City

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Gardens, Parks, and Open Spaces --
The Time to Act Is Now!

Unlike the neighborhoods that lie on our borders, our neighborhood has no real park to call its own.

Sitting Garden, 2100 block of Fitzwater Street, fall 2001. Built with volunteer labor on "borrowed" land, the center of this garden has now been demolished and replaced with a single family house.

For more than a decade, SOSNA has been working with the community to help manage open spaces. It has counseled community gardeners on ways to get ownership of the land they are beautifying; and it has assisted residents in fencing and maintaining vacant lots to help control short-dumping, trash, vandalism and petty crime.

Now the time has come to move forward proactively in partnership with community stakeholders to develop "greening" strategies for our neighborhood by securing some of our rapidly vanishing open space for permanent public use.

Mixed flower/vegetable garden, 20th and Catharine, June 2002. Community gardens encourage a diverse population to unite for a common purpose. This land has been sold to a developer and construction is imminent. [MORE]

The benefits of greening are well known. Trees and other plants improve the quality of our air, lower temperatures in the summer and serve as windbreaks in the winter. They add value to property and encourage shoppers to spend more time in commercial areas. A recent study has even demonstrated a direct correlation between the presence of trees and the reduction of violence in urban settings.

South Philadelphia as a whole has the lowest percentage of tree cover in the city -- just over 2%. That's less than Center City (3.5%), North Philadelphia (7.8%) and Southwest Philadelphia (18.9%).

Gardens, parks, and open spaces have also demonstrated their ability to serve as forces for community-building -- just look at what has happened around 11th and Cumberland, at the Village of Arts and Humanities, for example.

Comparison with nearby neighborhoods

Map of South of South neighborhood.
SOSNA's neighborhood as mapped by Penn. The green spaces are parks, and Southwest Center City has none.

The neighborhood just to the north (Center City West/Rittenhouse Square) has three parks: Rittenhouse Square, Fitler Square, and the Schuylkill River Park. The latter site includes a park, a dog run, recreation facilities, and an adjacent community garden. It was developed just in the past few decades, as residents realized the need to preserve this last open space from development. Although residents of the SOSNA service area are encouraged to consider these parks our own, in fact all three parks are outside convenient walking distance for most of our area.

The neighborhoods between South Street and Washington Avenue east of Broad Street have two recreation centers -- Shot Tower and Palumbo -- as well as Cianfrani Park, Mario Lanza Park, and other pocket parks. The recently redeveloped four square block public housing project, The Courtyard Apartments at Riverview, features extensive open space, thoughtfully landscaped, as does the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. A large community garden on Christian Street between 3rd and 4th is owned by the Neighborhood Garden Association, a Philadelphia Land Trust. Just south of this neighborhood on Washington Avenue are the Jefferson Square Park and adjacent recreation area stretching from 4th to 6th Streets.

map of SOSNA-area gardens

The neighborhood to the south of us also has a recreation area (but no park) on Washington Avenue as well as Wharton Square, a large park on the scale of Rittenhouse Square, in addition to other small parks.

While our neighborhood has many small vacant lots of six parcels or less, it has no vacant spaces that could be developed as parks on the scale of Rittenhouse, Jefferson, or Wharton Squares. At the same time, the red-hot real estate market here makes even these small lots tempting targets for real estate developers.

GREEN SPACE AT RISK: Map of existing Philadelphia Green community gardens (left; click for enlargement). Taken together, all these gardens would barely equal the area of the smallest of the three western Center City parks. Developers are trying to buy the larger parcels for residential construction, which would leave our neighborhood with no space that could be used as parks in the future.

Developing a blueprint for greening

SOSNA has recently worked with the City Planning Commission to develop a new five-year strategic plan for the neighborhood in partnership with other community organizations. The strategic planning is mandated by the City as part of SOSNA's responsibilities as the Neighborhood Advisory Committee for the community.

As part of the planning process, SOSNA established a committee in April 2002 to work on the green space issue. Members of that committee have been meeting with the City Planning Commission, representatives of Council President Anna C.Verna's office, and others to identify sites suitable for acquisition for a community park. That group has now identified a parcel in the 900 block of South 22nd Street and is working to secure ownership of all lots on the parcel. Any open space effort in the SOSNA service area must depend on volunteers for financial support and open space maintenance.

Open space is an issue that can't wait. The time to act is now. If you would like to be part the team to make a community park a reality, please fill out this form.

For a look at some of the green spaces created by volunteers in our neighborhood, visit this link at SouthPhillyBlocks.


SOSNA is the Neighborhood Advisory Committee for the area from South Street to Washington Avenue, Broad Street West to the Schuylkill River, funded by the Office of Housing and Community Development to provide citizen input into their redevelopment process in our community. SOSNA is a registered nonprofit corporation exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Site contents copyright SOSNA except where indicated.